Like most places that benefit from a warm climate, Bali has its fair share of snakes and other creepy-crawlies. In fact, apart from Ireland, Iceland, New Zealand, Alaska and Hawaii, you can find snakes in every country in the world. But if you don’t bother them, they mostly won’t bother you. Rest assured, most visitors to Bali have never encountered a snake, and most never will.
What do snakes in Bali eat?
All snakes, in Bali and around the world, are carnivores (meat eaters). Most live off insects, rodents, birds, eggs, fish, frogs and lizards; sometimes they eat other snakes. Larger snakes often prey on mammals such as sheep or pigs.
Although snakes will defend themselves against a human, sometimes resulting in a fatality, they do not actively prey on them. So the answer to the real question here is: no, snakes don’t eat people!
Are there dangerous snakes in Bali?
Yes, there are. It also helps to define what we mean by ‘dangerous’. The accurate definition is that the most dangerous snakes (to humans) are those that kill the most people, whereas the ones with the strongest venom are the most deadly. Either way, a bite from any snake high on the list is going to hurt.
Also, two species of python live in Bali – the reticulated and the rarer Burmese – that are capable of killing by constriction (asphyxiation by squeezing). In May 2020, a 16-year-old Balinese boy passed out and was only minutes from being squeezed to death because he foolishly decided to put his pet python around his shoulders whilst riding his motorbike home. So the python, although not deadly, is indeed dangerous.
The Yellow Head Reticulated Python, as found in Bali, is not deadly but is still considered dangerous and potentially lethal.
Are there poisonous snakes in Bali?
Yes, but that’s the wrong question. Let’s clear up one common mistake: when people talk about poisonous snakes, they nearly always mean venomous. Venom is the fluid that gets injected into you from a snake bite, and this can be extremely harmful and sometimes even fatal. Some snakes are also poisonous, but for this to have any effect, you’d have to eat the snake.
How many different snakes are there in Bali?
Across the whole of Indonesia there are over 300 types of snake, of which Bali has 46 known species. Only six of these are venomous, which we’ve listed below (there have been reports of a seventh, the Golden Banded Krait which is native to Indonesia, but at the time of writing this snake has not been officially recognised as Balinese).
How bad are bites from snakes in Bali?
Firstly, it’s worth knowing that snakes can only store a certain amount of venom and so a lot of bites are ‘dry bites’ – the snake decides that the creature is too large for them to eat and it doesn’t want to waste its venom. For example, about 80% of bites from sea snakes are dry bites. Non-venomous snake bites can still be painful.
A venomous bite injects a combination of toxins into the body – different for every snake – and the body reacts in different ways depending on the types of toxin. Immediately following a venomous snakebite, symptoms can include swelling, bruising, numbness, difficulty breathing, dizziness and blurred vision, vomiting, fainting and convulsions. If untreated, a bite can result in internal bleeding, tissue necrosis requiring amputation, organ failure, heart failure and, in rare cases, death.
How do you keep snakes away in Bali?
For the most part it’s easy, as snakes are mainly solitary creatures that don’t actively seek out company unless they’re hunting. Most bites happen because people step on snakes at night – it’s rare for a snake to attack for no reason. But be extra vigilant if you’re staying at a villa with a garden, as some snakes like to hide in low cut bushes during the day, and at night they use the dark, overgrown pathways. Also steer clear of compost heaps, which are a common place for snakes as they’re attracted to the warmth.
Sea snakes in Bali
In Bali, swimming and diving are very popular activities, and from time to time people encounter sea snakes. Like most snakes, they are not inclined to bite unless they feel threatened, but you should still be careful. Stay calm and leave them alone – eventually they will have to surface in order to breathe.
What should I do if someone gets bitten by a snake?
Here’s the WHO (World Health Organisation) advice: Reassure the victim and keep them calm. Move them away from the area where the bite occurred, as there may be more snakes. Remove anything tight from around the bitten part of the body. Immobilize the affected limb as much as possible, as movement can hasten the spread of the venom.
Do not cut any part of the body, do not apply a tourniquet and do not try to suck the venom out (this used to be a treatment, but it hasn’t been recommended for many years).
Ambulance services can sometimes be slow in Bali, so if possible you should use your own transport, or seek help from a local, and drive immediately to the nearest hospital. Always phone ahead and let them know you’re bringing in a snakebite victim.
Do local hospitals supply anti-venom treatments?
There’s only one anti-venom drug available in Indonesia, and unfortunately it only works on venom from one type of snake in Bali (the spitting cobra). But you should always take a snakebite victim to a hospital, as they have other treatments which can be effective.
Which snakes in Bali are venomous?
There are six Balinese snakes that are venomous. Here’s a brief overview of each one.
The Blue Krait (aka Malayan Krait)
As you can see, the Blue Krait (Bungarus Candidus) is not actually blue at all. In fact, most common or local names for snakes are quite confusing. This makes identification very difficult, which is why our advice is to steer clear of all snakes, not just those on this list. Blue Kraits can reach a length of 3½ feet (1.1m). They hunt late at night, and have been known to crawl into houses after dark. Be very wary of this snake – 50% of bites from the Blue Krait have proved fatal.
The King Cobra (aka Jungle Cobra, Hamadryad)
The King Cobra (Ophiophagus Hannah) is the world’s longest venomous snake at an average of 11½ ft (3.5m), with a greatest recorded length of just over 19 feet (5.8m). Although it is typically shy and avoids confrontation, it is highly venomous and one of the few snakes that hunt during the day. The King Cobra is listed as a vulnerable species, due to gradual destruction of the forests of west Bali, its natural habitat. It is one of the five deadliest snakes in the world.
The Island Pit Viper (aka White-lipped Pit Viper)
The Island Pit Viper (Trimeresurus Insularis) accounts for more venomous bites than any other snake in Bali, but its venom is not fatal. It’s a small snake, roughly 15 inches (0.4m) long, and is either bright green or an incredibly beautiful blue colour (like the picture at the very top of this page). They hide in trees or bushes during the daytime, and come down at night to hunt in short grass, where their colour offers them excellent camouflage.
The Javan Spitting Cobra (aka Indonesian Cobra)
Spitting cobras (Naja Sputatrix) come in a variety of colours and have no obvious markings; this, coupled with the fact that they don’t ‘sit up’ as you’d expect, makes it difficult to identify them. They are a medium-sized snake, with an average length of 4 feet (1.2m). As well as injecting through biting, this cobra can spray venom from its fangs for up to 6 feet (2m). Often venom will be sprayed in the face, and if this happens it’s important not to rub the eyes as this could cause blindness.
The Banded Sea Krait (aka Yellow-lipped Sea Krait, Colubrine Sea Krait)
The Banded Sea Krait (Laticauda Colubrina) is one of the 15-or-so sea snakes that inhabit the waters of Bali. Most stay far out from the shore, but in contrast the Banded Sea Krait often crawls onto land and hides among the rocks, where it also lays its eggs. They can sometimes be found on beaches and shallow waters, especially around Tanah Lot. In the water they can be quite inquisitive and should be actively avoided.
The Banded Sea Krait is regarded as holy by the Balinese, and is probably the source of the legend that Tanah Lot Temple is guarded by a giant sea serpent.
The Asian Coral Snake (aka Red-tailed Coral, Banded Coral)
The Asian Coral snake (Calliophis Intestinalis) doesn’t live underwater amongst the coral, as the name implies, but instead stays on land in the soil or under leaves. They are very small, averaging at just over 13 inches (0.35m) and, as such, are rarely seen. Black or dark brown in colour with a lengthways yellow or orange stripe, they have black and white stripes on the belly which is why they’re sometimes referred to as banded. The underside of the tail is red, hence the alternate name of Red-tailed Coral.
The Final Words
All the above may appear daunting, but we just want you to be aware of the danger that snakes can present if not respected properly. Remember: snake bites and snake attacks are very uncommon.
Even if snakes actively chased people – which they don’t – they cannot outrun a human. This means that if you see a snake, you can avoid it. And if you can avoid it, there is zero chance of being bitten.
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